Archive for the 'Kestenbaum and Company' Category

24
Jun
13

Jewish Ceremonial Art – The Soul of a People: Part 2


In many an auction there have often been unexpected surprises, such as an item that was estimated as a high seller failing to reach even the lowest threshold of its estimated value or an item selling for an amount far above the expected. Last Thursday’s auction, at Kestenbaum and Company, was no exception. While some lots may not have sold at the expected price, others indeed went for higher sums.

Kestenb12Just as art reveals the artist’s soul, and ceremonial art reveals the soul of a people, how and why later generations value that art speaks volumes of that particular people’s past. Last Thursday, quite a few items exceeded their estimates but two of them – in particular – demonstrate to me what we, as Jews, still treasure today.

UKRANIAN/POLISH SILVER SPICE TOWER. Single tier tower, engraved on four sides with animals representing the adage from Ethics of the Fathers: Bold as a Leopard, Swift as an Eagle, Fleet as a Deer, Strong as a Lion (Chapter 5:23). Set on knop stem and matching square base. Marked. Height: 7 inches.

Circa 1820: $6,000-$8,000

The above item sold for $15,000. Frankly, from a strictly artistic point of view, there were more beautiful, more intricately designed spice towers for havdala, even in this very auction; the particular lot, however, stood out for its inscriptions telling a Jew that he must IsiKaufwdalways be ready to act with alacrity, and defy every obstacle on his way to perform any one of Hakodosh Boruch Hu‘s commandments. While the esthetics of an item are important, its message and its function are – obviously – of greater value to us as a people…  even in the 21st century!

The second item I find worthy of mentioning is a mixed media work…

(Kaufman, Isidor. After). Studying the Talmud. Wood and mixed media (intarsia-style). Framed. 23.5 x 19.5 inches

Mid 20 century: $100-$150

Based on the Isidor Kaufman painting ‘Studying the Talmud’

The above item sold for $1500, ten times the highest estimated amount! Why? Because not only do we Jews value tradition, not only do we value books, we treasure learning and scholarship. Again the personal values of the buyer far outshine the artistic value of the work.

Attending this auction of Jewish Ceremonial Art showed me an important part of our character as a people. It reinforced the knowledge that no matter how far down the rungs of spiritual height our generation has descended, no matter how jaded we’ve become in the surroundings of the present day world, the values and beliefs our ancestors held are still engraved in our hearts. The flames of yahadut are indeed eternal and will forever warm our collective soul.

CS

RELATED POSTS

Jewish Ceremonial Art – The Soul of a People

10
Jul
12

Illustrations, Paintings and Ceremonial Art – A Judaica Auction – Part 3


No auction at Kestenbaum and Company would ever be complete without some art.

There were quite a few art items – in this auction – ranging from illustrated books, to paintings, to kiddush cups, to beautifully written, superbly decorated meguillos and more, my personal favorite among the illustrations was Isidor Kauffman‘s set of color plates of chassidic life… Lot 243:

KAUFFMAN, ISIDOR. Complete set of Sixteen large plates, reproducing the artist’s work. Introductory German text by Rabbi Dr. H. P. Chajes. Each plate individually matted.
Original decorative portfolio, light wear. Lg. Folio

Vienna, 1925 $3000-$5000

As a painter Kauffman’s work is of considerable historical value, they are documents of a time gone by, they bring us aspects of the shtetl that was, a portrait of life forever snuffed out by the Nazi hordes whether in Galitzia, Poland or the Ukraine. With a sensitive, loving eye, Kauffman sought to reproduce every nuance of the people and objects he portrayed. There is life in every face, there is movement in every shape…

While there was certainly better art at this auction, Lot 359 attracted my attention me as the facial expression and pose showed me a Rov struggling with an halachic problem, or trying to find a new insight into a hard sugya. One can almost “see” the thoughts going through the mind of the one painted…

(RABBINIC PORTRAIT). Contemplation. Oil on canvas. signed upper right (undecipherable) Framed 16 x 17 inches.

20th century. $1000-1500

Lot 379…

LARGE DUTCH BRASS CHANUKAH LAMP. Prominent drip-pan encloses cast openwork lamp, the upper-section with for elongated freurs-de-lis, large servant light attached at center over central rectangular plaque with inscription: “For the Commandment is a Lamp, the Teaching is a Light (Proverbs VI:23) 9.5 x 12 inches.

circa 1700. $15,000-18,000

A very beautiful, intricately decorated silver bound prayer book, Lot 398…

SILVER BOUND PRAYER BOOK. Hebrew Festival Prayer-book. Printed in Venice by Stamperia Bragadina in 1750.

Embossed overall with Baroque Style decoration, including swirls and foliage. Upper coverwith central vignette of the sign of the Levite; rear cover of rampant lion aside tree with crown above. Pair of clasps and hinges. Height: 7.5 inches. Kassel 1770.

$4000-5000

Jewish art, whether a painting, whether ceremonial is a document of a time, past or present, that either passed or is fast passing through. It is a silent witness to what was, what is and… what could still be.

CS

20
Jun
12

Al Principio… – A Judaica Auction – Part 2


The third installment of The Cassuto Collection of Iberian Books is being offered at tomorrow’s auction. Many of the books in this allotment not only had to deal with the Inquisition’s censorship, but in some cases had to even use deception in order to get printed, as is the case with Lot 307, the crown jewel of the collections current offerings…

Al Principio crio el Dio alos çielos y ala tierra – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

[..]Ferrara, 1553 $30,000-50,000

OF UNPARALLELLED BEAUTY, THE FERRARA BIBLE REPRESENTS ONE OF THE GREAT LANDMARKS IN THE HISTORY OF PRINTING. It is the first Spanish translation of the entire Hebrew Bible, the work of Jews who had carried the language with them into exile. The Gothic typography and the presswork of this stately folio volume are exceedingly fine. The text, based upon older medieval Castillian versions that had circulated among the Jews of Spain, became virtually canonical for Sephardic Jews in Europe.

[..]Completed on March 1st, 1553, the Ferrara Bible is a remarkable achievement. The entire text is obviously Jewish from beginning to end, avoiding the Christological nuances and mistranslations of the Vulgate…

[..]The title page of the Bible proclaims that it is a “word for word translation from the Hebrew Truth.” It also states that the translation was “seen and examined by the Office of the Inquisition.” On the bottom of the page is recorded that the book was printed “under a privilege from the Duke of Ferrara.” There is no doubt the Duke permitted the Jews to print the book, but it is inconceivable that this translation could have been approved by the Inquisition. The Catholic Church would have approved of no translation other than the Vulgate, which was its official version. Moreover it would not have given approval to a translation based upon the Hebrew text, edited in a style that was faithful to the traditional Jewish Bible commentaries. Aside from that, authorizations by the Inquisition never appeared as part of the title of a book, but rather as a seal on the title page or the last page. Such authorizations did not refer to the “Office of the Inquisition,” but rather to the “holy Office” (santo oficio). Most likely the formula printed here on the title page was coined for the sake of appearances and Duke Ercole II probably agreed to the deception.

Important to note is the tragic iconography of the title-page which is truly emblematic of the entire era. In the top center of the ornate woodcut frame is a head of a bearded Neptune, who, with bulging cheeks, is blowing a storm . Beneath the lines of text, a ship flounders in the waves of a raging sea, its sails torn, its mast broken. The ship represents the afflicted Jewish people, particularly the Spanish and Portuguese exiles, in their perilous search for a safe heaven. Further symbolism may be found: At the top of one of the masts there is an armillary sphere which represent a dramatically inverted symmetry. The very same device that was for Portugal, a sign of its great age of exploration and its hope for glory, becomes here, a symbol of Jewish latest age of wandering, and its hope for a secure refuge from the storm of its suffering.

THE FERRARA BIBLE, A MASTERPIECE OF 16TH CENTURY JEWISH BOOK PRODUCTION, BECAME THE CLASSIC SPANISH VERSION OF THE BIBLE FOR THE MARRANOS RETURNING TO JUDAISM AND INDEED FOR THE ENTIRE SEPHARDIC DIASPORA AS A WHOLE FOR CENTURIES THEREAFTER.

A truly daring achievement for the times, and proof that the Jewish spirit is truly unconquerable as long as we tenaciously cling to our beliefs, and to our tradition.

Lot 324 is another interesting work…

LEON, JACOB JUDAH (TEMPLO). Tavnith Heichal – Libellus Effigiei Templi Salomonia. FIRST HEBREW EDITION. Separate Hebrew and Latin titles, Spanish dedications to the Parnassim of the Sephardic Congregation Talmud Torah of Amsterdam, followed by a Hebrew translation of the Privileges granted by the United Dutch Provinces. Numerous previos owner’s marks, including various members of the Belmonte Family. ff 6, (l), 4-38. Ex-library, some staining. Contemporary calf, worn, spine taped. Sm. 4to. Vinograd, Amsterdam 179 (unseen); Fuks, Amsterdam 266.

Amsterdam, Marcus Levi, 1650 $1000-1500

Treatise on the exterior, interior, and ritual objects of the Temple of Solomon. The name “templo” was added to the author’s family name on account of the celebrated copper engravings of Solomon’s Temple that Jacob Judah Leon prepared for his scarce work. Retrato del Templo de Solomon (1642).

It is interesting to note that earlier this year, we spoke of the Spanish and English translations of this very same book (photo of a detailed illustration included), published in 1654 and 1675 respectively and currently in the possession of the New York Public Library.

Lot 317 is important mainly because it exposes the ruthlessness of the Inquisition…

(INQUISITION). Beringer, Joachim. Hispanicae Inquisitionis & Carnicinae Secretoria. [“The Spanish Inquisition and the Secret Torture Chamber”) FIRST EDITION. pp. 334. Foxed. Contemporary vellum, discolored. 8vo.

Amber (Bavaria) Johannes Schönfeld, 1611 $500-700

Anti-Inquisitorial tract, based on maily on the earlier work of Reginaldus Gonsalvius Montanus (pseudonym of the Spanish theologian and Bible translator Casiodoro de Reina), SanctaeInquisitionis Hispanicae Artes (heidelberg 1567).

Lot 312 shows the craziness behind the Inquisition, even if it never intended to do that…

(HEBREW). Joannem Ab Incarnatione. Dikduk Leshon HaKedosha / Grammatica Linguae Sancta. FIRST EDITION. Latin interspersed with fully vocalized Hebrew. pp. (8), 4, 549, (I blank). Lightly browned. Contemporary calf-backed marbled boards. 4to.

Coimbra, Typis Academiae, 1789 $500-700

Rare Hebrew grammar printed in Portugal. It might strike one as ironic that at the height of the Inquisition, when Portugal had been purged of Judaism, the Hebrew language – “the sacred tongue” – was studied by Catholic theologians at the prestigious University of Coimbra.

WorldCat shows but a single copy of the book, located in the Sterling Library, Yale University.

It seems very strange that even as the Inquisition denied the Jews the right to live as Jews – under penalty of death – that its theologians felt compelled to study what they regarded as “the sacred tongue.” Confused?

There is so much among these offerings covering everything from halacha to kabbalah, from TaNa”CH to prayer, from ethical writings to historical documents and much more. This auction will take place tomorrow June 21st, 2012; 3:00pm at Kestenbaum & Company at 242 West 30th, 12th floor; New York, NY 10001- Tel: 212.366.1197 – Fax: 212.366.1368.

RELATED POSTS

You Have Taught Me Since My Youth – A Judaica Auction – Part 1
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 2
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 3

19
Jun
12

You Have Taught Me Since My Youth – A Judaica Auction – Part 1


Elokim, limadtani mine’uray ve’ad henah agid nifla’otecha – True God, You have taught me since my youth and until now, I will say your wonders. Thus opens up Lot 101 (Menachem Azariah Da Fano‘s Yonath Elem) in the upcoming Judaica auction at Kestenbaum & Company – this coming Thursday; June 21st, 2012 at 3:00pm. The opening phrase above best sums up the treasured first or early editions of learned books, of awe inspiring manuscripts, and of the ceremonial art that – starting this past Sunday afternoon – are on display at the auctioneers’ offices (242 West 30th, 12th floor; New York, NY 10001- Tel: 212.366.1197 – Fax: 212.366.1368).

Kabbalistic works mingle freely with less esoteric commentaries of the TaNa”CH, chassidic tomes share space with the writings of fierce opponents to the fledgling movement. What is remarkable to me, what fills me with emotion as I peruse these old books, these fragile manuscripts from the hands of some of the greatest figures in our history (past and just passed), is that though the ideas seem divergent, the disagreements often lie more in the semantics than in the actual contents. Yes, historically we have witnessed very bitter arguments between rationalists and kabbalists, between chassidim and misnagdim, but there is little doubt these disagreements between the leaders were not for the sake of personal honor but about how we could best serve Him, speak of, sing about or praise His wonders. All these various ideas, all these disparate ways, are nothing more and nothing less than multiple roads leading to the same eternal truth…

Menachem Azariah MeFano‘s  Asarah Ma’amaroth was first printed – partially – in Venice in 1597. Lot 101, Yonath Elem, is the first printed edition of one of the individual ma’amarot on kabbalistic subjects.

FANO, MENACHEM AZARIAH DA. Yonath Elem [kabbalah] FIRST SEPARATE EDITION ff38. Lightly worn, some worming (mostly marginal but touching some letters in final leaves). Contemporary calf, needs rebinding, 4to. Vinograd, Amsterdam 150; Fuks, Amsterdam 254.

Amsterdam, Judah ben Mordechai and Partners, 1648 $500 – 700

One of ten Kabbalistic treatises, collectively entitled Asarah Ma’amaroth. R. Menachem Azariah (1548-1620), of a well-to-do banking family in Bologna, Italy, was first a follower of the Cordoveran system of kabbalah but afterward, under the influence of an elusive figure, R. Israel Sarug, switched his allegiance to the Lurianic school. The propagation of kabbalah emanating from Safed in Europe was largely due to his prolific efforts. The title cites the words of the “Shelah HaKadosh” R. Isaiah Horowitz, who advisded a colleague to attach himself to attach himself to this work, which is “pleasing to the eyes of God and man”.

Another work that is sure to inspire deep feelings of awe is Lot 75:

Seder Tephilah miKol haShanah im Kavanoth HaAri”zal. Prepared by Asher ben Solomon Zalman Margoliuth. FIRST EDITION. Lengthy contemporary ownership inscription on opening blank. ff398. Stained, couple of neat paper repairs. Modern calf. Thick 8vo. Vinograd, Lemberg 45.

Lemberg, Solomon Yaros Rapaport, 1787 $10,000-15,000

THE HIGHLY IMPORTANT SIDDUR OF R. ASHER – A RARE COMPLETE COPY

Chassidim hold in the very highest esteem this particular prayerbook that contains many Lurianic Kavanoth. R. Asher was a disciple of R. Chaim of Sanz the famed Chassidic-group known as the Broder-Kloyz.” In the same year, 1788, the printer Rapaport produced this Reb-Asher Siddur, he also issued the famed first edition of the Noam Elimelech.

Now we turn from the chassidim to the misnagdim… Lot 99:

(ELIJAH, GAON OF VILNA). Perush al Yona [Commentary on the Book of Jonah]. Introduction by R. Chaim of Volozhin, the Gaon’s principle disciple. FIRST EDITION. ff. (I). 6 Some light staining , corners rounded. Modern marbled boards. 4to. Vinograd, Vilna 14; Vinigrad, Gra 50

Vilna, Wielmoznega Kanonika, 1800. $600-800

With approbations from the Dayanim of Vilna who bear witness that this work is among the very earliest authentic texts written in the Gaon’s own hand.

I also found Lot 57 and Lot 58 very worthy of being mentioned here…

ASHKENAZI, ELIEZER BEN ELIJAH HAROPHÈ. Yosef Lekach {commentary to the Book of Esther, with text] FIRST EDITION. Title within historiated woodcut architectural arch. Wide margins. The Valmadonna copy. ff.83 (I-blank). Some staining, censor’s signature and inscriptions. on recto and verso of final leaf, ff 6 and 7 misbound upside down. Recent blind-tooled morocco boards. Sm 4to. Vinograd, Cremona47; Benayahu , Cremona 44; Adams B-1335.

Cremona, Christopher Draconi, 1576. $400-600

Eliezer Ahkenazi’s Biblical exegesis is permeated with the contemporary rationalistic spirit of rabbinical scholarship. This edition of Yosef Lekach, was the last Hebrew book printed in Cremona, which for over twenty years was a center of Jewish learning and printing, amidst the rigid censorship of the Inquisition. See D. Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (1963) pp. 306-19

BACHIAH BEN JOSEPH IBN PAQUDA. Chovoth Halevavoth. Translated into Hebrew by Judah Ben Tibbon. Scholarly marginalia in an Italian hand especially on Sha’ar HaTeshuvah (ff. 66-68) ff. 103. Some staining in places, previous owners’ signature on title, censor’s signature on final leaf , closely shaved. Later calf-backed boards. Sm 4to. Vinograd, Mantua 62.

Mantua 1559. $700-800

An attractive copy of this classic work, with new corrections plus seven leaves of indices to Bible and Talmudim.

Throughout the ages, the book enjoyed wide popularity in a variety of circles, although in later centuries Eastern European Jews would shy away from the introductory Sha’ar HaYichud, which is of a decidedly philosophical nature. and focus instead on the remainder of the work, with its ethical guidance.

For those who prefer halachic works, the second sepher in Lot 1 should be truly appealing…

AARON IBN CHAIM. Lev Aaron [Commentary to the Books of Joshua and Judges, with text] . ff. 122, (2), 129, (3).

Bound With: Isaac Ben Abba Man of Marseilles. Sepher Ha’Itur. ff 110. Geometrical diagram on f. 101a. Two works bound in one volume. FIRST EDITION. Some staining and slight marginal repair to upper corner of title of first woork. Later calf-backed boards. spine worn. Folio. Vinograd, Venice 1052 and Venice 1041.

Venice, Giovanni di Gara, 1608 $1000-1500

The author of the first work, R. Aaaron ibn Chaim I (1545-1632) served as dayan in the court of Vidal HaTzarfati in Fez, Morocco. He is most famous for his study of the Siphra. The present commentary to Joshua and Judges excels in its command of Midrashic and Talmudic literature. See Ch.J.D. Azulai, Shem HaGedolim I, V-6; EJ. Vol VIII cols. 1179-1180 (inc. facs.)

The second work is a monumental halachic compendium discussing fiscal and marital laws, forbidden foods, festivals, etc. The work is a primary source of Gaonic responsa and is frequently cited by Joseph Karo in his Beth Yoseph.

It is utterly impossible in this brief space to do justice to this wondrous collection of sepharim, kithvey yad, letters and more. There are – in this assortment – some truly unique treasures on so many different aspects of Judaism, it is obvious there should never be a problem finding a way to learn and speak of His wonders.

CS

RELATED POSTS

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 2
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 3

13
Jun
12

Judaica Auctions – A Conversation with Daniel Kestenbaum


Towards the end of March we wrote on these very pages about a fascinating Judaica auction, where rare and ancient sfarim, awe inspiring kitvey yad,  ceremonial art and more, were up for bids (here, here, and here). This evening, at 8:00pm (Eastern Time), we will talk to Daniel Kestenbaum – the president and founder of Kestenbaum and Company – who run that auction and has a new one coming up on June 21st.

Growing up in England, in London, Daniel developed a passion for Jewish history from a very early age on; becoming an auctioneer of fine Judaica allowed him to literally touch history. I had the pleasure of taping our conversation with him yesterday at Kestenbaum and Company‘s offices (at 242 West 30th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10001; Tel: 212.366.1197). You will hear, stories of unusual finds, stories about the Jewish intelligentsia of Tel Aviv in 1935 and more. At their offices I was surrounded by thousand year old manuscripts, books printed in the late 15th century, ceremonial art from around the world.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it or even if you want to hear it again, why not listen to our last week’s broadcast with brothers David and Zev Brooks, the creative brothers’ who brought us the funny/touching movie The Yankles - about a chassidic yeshiva’s baseball team.

Please do not forget to listen, this evening, to BlogTalkradio.com/kosherscene at at 8:00pm (Eastern Time), when we will talk to Daniel Kestenbaum of Kestenbaum and Company. It will be a very interesting, fascinating look at Jewish history and rare books. We’ll be waiting for you.

CS

28
Mar
12

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 2


Last Wednesday, I found my way to the Rare Judaica Auction at Kestenbaum and Company. The place quickly filled up with eager buyers and observers, I found it fascinating! Among the many items auctioned off there were printed sforim, letters, manuscripts, ceremonial art and more.

The first set of printed machzorim in the US (1837-1838)- Isaac Leeser‘s six volume edition of Siddur Siphtei Tzaddikim sold for$30,000.00.

The catalog describes it:

Siddur Sipfthei Tzaddikim, Isaac Leeser’s comprehensive prayer book, was the first American edition containing the liturgy for the entire year. It contains the original Hebrew text and an original English translation. Leeser marketed his prayer book to audiences both in America and the British colonies in the Caribbean and thus included “A prayer for a Royal Government” and “A prayer for a Republican Government”

Another interesting item that attracted attention was a broadside commemorating the 4th of July:

It commanded $20,000.00; it was printed in 1876 and is the only known copy.

“Dedicated to the People of America on the Centennial of their Liberty, July 4th 1876. On behalf of the People of Israel by Moses A. Schreiber of the 44th Street Synagogue, City of New York.”

A highly original production by Moses Aron Schreiber, Rabbi of Cong. Sha’arei Tephillah, New York. This lengthy ode celebrating the Centennial of American Independence is evenly divided in Hebrew and English and ingeniously rhymes in both languages, while being an exact translation of each other. Following an Introduction, it is set into seven sections entitled: “Taxation; Declaration; Constitution; Immigration; Arts & Sciences; Exhibition and Judah’s Offering”

Written with immense patriotic fervor informed by a passionate religious belief, clearly Rabbi Moses Schreiber’s sense of being a patriotic American is certainly not less than his pride in being an Orthodox Jew.

Another interesting item, that sold for $11,000.00 was:

The first printed edition of the Bible, published in 1515 in Hebrew and Latin by Daniel Bomberg, translated by the apostate Felix Pratensis, sold for $11,000.00. While Bomberg’s intention was to publish the whole of the Old Testament only this book appeared. By 1516-17 Daniel Bomberg realized that he could never sell this to the Jewish market, he therefore printed the first Mikroth Gedoloth TaNa”CH (Biblia Rabbinica), which was auctioned off at $47,500.00.

A fragment of a lost manuscript of Maimonides Commentary on the Mishna


It went for $23,000.00. Written less than 20 years after Maimonides passing, by Saadia al-Addani in 1222 in Judeo-Arabic, it is the oldest known Hebrew codex copied in Yemen.

The Szyk Haggadah commanded $25,000.00, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe‘s letter (written when he was only 23, long before he took over his father-in-law’s position as the revered head of the movement) to the Rogatchover Gaon sold for $30,000.00.

Many items representing our religious/literary endeavors through out the ages, and from many countries were featured in this auction. Many of these revolutionized Jewish thought, many became intrinsic texts elucidating various aspects of Jewish Law, tradition, kabbalah and more… The great, the controversial, the unknown and the unknown were well represented here.

In Part 3, the final installment of this series, we will cover Ceremonial and Fine Art items.

CS

RELATED POSTS

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1

21
Mar
12

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1


“I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations … They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.”
John Adams, Second President of the United States
(From a letter to F. A. Van der Kemp [Feb. 16, 1808] Pennsylvania Historical Society)

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting the offices of Kestenbaum and Company, Auctioneers of Rare Books, Manuscripts, Fine Art and Vintage Wines. Whether you spent any portion of your life learning, or if you merely just wondered about the chain of history of our sacred literature, this auction will forever change your outlook! To know that the chain is unbroken, like a spine, intact through generations, is affirming and so powerful as if I felt tradition coursing thorough my veins with each turn of carefully preserved page…

I started my journey into seforim history with Daniel Bomberg‘s 4 volume TaNa”CH or Biblia Rabbinica (Lot 71)…

The Catalog appraises it between $50,000 to $70,000 and describes it thus, on page 23:

[..]THE SECOND MIKRA’OT GEDOLOTH (BIBLIA RABBINICA) PRINTED. A FINE, WIDE MARGINED COPY BOUND IN 17TH CENTURY FULL VELLUM

The first Rabbinic Bible to present the Massorah. The Text of this edition became the standard Massoretic text for all subsequent editions. See D. S. Berkowitz, In Rememberance of Creation (1968) no 166.

The first Biblia Rabbinica printed by Bomberg in 1516-17 was edited by the apostate Jew Felix Pratensis and contained the Imprimatur of the Pope. Bomberg quickly realized that these two facts marginalized the Great Bible from the Jewish market.  Bomber therefore employed Jacob b. Chaim ibn Adonijah, newly arrived in Venice (after being driven out from Spain and then Tunis), as editor of the Second Biblia Rabbinica. A meticulous and most knowledgeable Jewish editor, Jacob ben Chaim went to great pains to secure as many codices with a Massorah as possible. For the first time, there was issued a printed Hebrew Bible with a marginal Massorah, which, as hoped by Bomberg, was received with acclaim by the Jewish market. THUS THIS BIBLE MAY BE SAID TO THE THE FIRST JEWISH RABBINIC BIBLE

It comes with Targum Onkeles, commentaries by RaSH”I, ibn Ezra, Kimchi and more.

I stood in awe as I held the second printed edition of the Shulchan Aruch (Lot 185)…

Printed in Venice in 1567 by Giovanni Griffo, with all four parts in one volume and four title pages The final leaf has the signatures of the censors. Dampstained and with yellowing pages, it was rebound in elaborately blind-tooled morocco. Priced at $10,000.00 to $12,000.00

Next I saw the first editions of R. Yisroel Meir Kagan of Radin‘s Chofetz Chaim and Shmiras Haloshon

The Chofetz Chaim was printed in 1873 and priced between $2000 to $3000, while Shmiras Haloshon was printed in 1876 and goes for $1000 to $1500. Both texts are First Editions.

With Pessach just around the corner how could I not look at the Haggadot?

Starting with the magnificent Haggada illustrated by Arthur Szyk (Lot 146)…

ONE OF 125 NUMBERED COPIES PRODUCED FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. PRINTED ENTIRELY ON VELLUM, RICHLY ILLUSTRATED IN COLOR BY SZYK

Published in London in 1939-40, it has a dedication to King George VI of England, it’s priced between $30,000 to $40,000. The Times Literary Supplement described it as “…one of the most beautiful works ever produced by human hands… Szyk’s Haggadah stands among Hebrew illuminated manuscripts, in a moment of time, for all time, in a class by itself.

From left to right in the above photo:

First edition of Isaac Chayut‘s Siyach Yitzchok, published in 1587 (Lot 102), it goes for $800 to $1200

A series of kabbalistic poems with commentary, all of whose themes relate to the First Night of Passover, including instructions and laws pertaining to the Seder.

On the right, we have an Haggadah with the Abarbanel‘s commentary (Zevach Pessach), printed in 1561 in Rivo di Trento (Italy) by Jacob Marcaria. Marcaria, the catalog tells us, was a physician and scholar who published books in all branches of Judaica, often adding his own scholarly prefaces. It is listed as being in the $4000 to $6000 range

With the hundreds of sfarim and secular books and kisvey yad I saw on display, it was very hard to decide which ones I would include in this first installment. Needless to say, this will be a multi-part series.

Before closing this post and considering the auction is to take place today at 3:00 pm at Kestenbaum and Company (242 West 30th Street; New York, NY 10001 – Tel: 212.366..1197) I can only say that having spent parts of my life learning from some of this very same sforim (albeit in modern editions!), it would be hard for me to understand if at least most of the items are not bought by those who know that their value is far beyond the price they command. It was with deep emotion (which still overwhelms me as I write) that I (and every yid, who spent/spends time learning) beheld this collection… Why? Because the worth of these items lies far deeper than in being early editions, they represent our very faith as Jews, they represent our universal truth, they summarize the values that define us!

CS




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